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Literally/figuratively

Many a good figure of speech is ruined by being preceded by literally. "I literally laughed myself to death" is an absurdity because literally means "actually; without exaggeration," and a person who literally laughed himself to death wouldn't be around to tell the tale. A person who says "I literally laughed myself to death" really means "I figuratively laughed myself to death." Of course, there's no need to use figuratively with a figure of speech. If it's a good one, the listener will know and won't have to be reminded. "I laughed myself to death" is sufficient.


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